October 7th, 2008
04:00 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Obama gains on issues, personal qualities

A new national survey suggests that Barack Obama is viewed as a more compassionate candidate.

A new national survey suggests that Barack Obama is viewed as a more compassionate candidate.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) - Just hours before the start of the second presidential debate, a new national survey suggests that Barack Obama is increasingly viewed as a more compassionate candidate than John McCain — a factor that could make a difference in Tuesday’s face-off, a town hall style meeting that will feature direct interaction between the two men and voters in a live audience.

In the new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll out Tuesday afternoon, 55 percent of registered voters questioned say that Obama “cares more about people like you” than McCain, with 35 percent saying McCain cares more than Obama. That 20 point margin for Obama is up from a 9 point advantage a month ago.

"The all-time champion of town-hall debates was Bill Clinton, because he was able to connect with the audience members so well," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Voters nationwide seem to feel some connection with Obama. The question is whether he'll connect with the people at the debate tonight. John McCain has a pretty good track record at town halls, and it's possible that he will be the one who looks more compassionate."

Obama also appears to be viewed as the candidate with the clearer plan to solve the country's problems. He has a 15 point lead over McCain on that question in the poll, 48 percent to 33 percent. Last month, McCain had a two point advantage on that question.

"Debate watchers - particularly moderates and independents - tend to look for specifics," Holland noted. "Both candidates will probably want to play into that expectation."

Obama has also made gains on the question of leadership ability: A 19 point McCain advantage early last month on the question of which candidate was a strong and decisive leader has now shrunk to a five point lead. But McCain is still viewed as better-prepared than Obama: by 54 to 36 percent, of those polled said he has the better experience to be president.

The Democratic nominee now holds the edge on handling the war in Iraq than John McCain: by 51 percent to 46 percent, they say he would do a better job dealing with that issue - a switch in the standings from the last CNN poll.

"Voters agree with McCain that things are going well for the U.S. in Iraq. That's a switch since April when we last asked that question," said Holland. "But voters also agree with Obama that the war was a bad idea - and they haven't changed their minds on that in almost four years."

The issue has also faded into the background for many voters. “Iraq may be doing better, but we're not. Guess which matters more to voters," says CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

A majority of those surveyed also said Obama would better handle the economy (57 to 37 percent), a financial crisis (53 to 36 percent), and health care (60 percent to 33 percent). McCain is still viewed as the candidate best-equipped to deal with the threat of terrorism, leading Obama 54 to 44 percent.

Obama's favorable rating among those questioned in the poll is 62 percent, down 1 percentage point from three weeks ago; McCain's favorable rating is 54 percent, down 3 points.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted Friday through Sunday (October 3-5), with 1,006 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for some questions, including favorability and unfavorability ratings, and plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for others

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (270 Responses)
  1. mike

    mccain was crying about bush slinging mud. and that americans will see right through it. and 7 monhts ago he said he wont have any negative ads. well look at him now. i cant stand him because he and palin continue to take something that has 10% truth and act like its the truth. i hope obama makes him so pissed he tries to punch obama. then obama give that old mofo a uppercut and lays him out. lol. ok wishful thinking. but its time for a change. and obama is that change

    October 7, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. Blue in a Red State

    It looks like John McCain is following in Bush's footsteps by violating every principle he ever said he had. That's not the leasdership we need in the US now or frankly ever. Please help us Baravkteh vote!!

    October 7, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. TH




    October 7, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. tron

    it is time for this country to have the leader who others can respect . I dont see how MsCain/Palin could be any better from Bush/Cheaney.
    we will miss Bush (even at the approval rate of 23%) after Palin taking over.

    October 7, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  5. ray

    the swiftboating is sinking you morons, you terrorist on the right and i hope it takes all you right wingersdown with it

    October 7, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  6. Blue in a Red State

    It looks like John McCain is following in Bush's footsteps by violating every principle he ever said he had. That's not the leasdership we need in the US now or frankly ever. Please help us Barack the vote!!

    October 7, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Reagan

    Why is CNN not reporting on the ACORN bust in Las Vegas that went down today? They actually had the names of the starting line up for the Dallas Cowboys registered.

    Kind of big news considering ACORN was to get a huge amount of money in the Bail Out Bill the Dem's wrote up (and the Republicans shot down.) Also, since good Ol' boy O'Bama used to train and work for ACORN, and who ACORN "volunteers" are steadily working people over to vote for.

    Why nothing CNN? Not important to you? Or is it damaging to your candidate choice?

    October 7, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. al in memphis

    To Sam: You should really take pride in reading things for yourself. There was an interview with Obama's half brother in which he made it clear he was doing okay and wanted to make his own way in life. Some people don't judge themselves by what others have versus what they think they should have - it call contentment & pride in yourself.

    I guess you just watch Hannity and took that as truth. Please don't let Hannity raise your kids!

    October 7, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. bridgette

    Look they are both elitist to a certain degree. And that is not a bad thing. The problem is you have a lot of people using that word and they don't understand what it means. For being elite is something we use to consider a good thing to strive towards.

    October 7, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. Aimee in San Diego

    You know everytime I see McCain/Palin – I send more money to the Obama campaign – I am a registered Republican – one of many who will be voting for Obama/Biden come November 4th.. Guess what I am a "white" single mother who does quite well for herself and while initially had respect for McCain was not going to vote for him, now I find him to be seriously pathetic in his and his Barbie sidekick's attempts to sway voters. Do they truly think that we are stupid? Come on now, their portrayal in the past few weeks have just absolutely destroyed any moral and ethical standings that McCain may have had.

    Obama/Biden 08/12

    October 7, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. Independent_me

    McCain lost the election when he decided to listen to the old Bush operatives and go negative. He lost a lot of trust from people like me who loved and admired him, and thought of him as a man of principles. Now he just comes across as someone who is willing to "sell his soul to gain the world".

    And Palin is downright scary!
    She comes across as a female Bush who is running on personality and likability – but no substance. People are not willing to take that chance again. As a Christian, I can never vote for her because she is running a decidedly un-Christlike campaign. She is lying; twisting the truth and inciting people to anger and hate.

    I'm voting Obama...

    October 7, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  12. joe six pack

    Yes, McCain has experience after 26 yrs in the senate, but it is the wrong kind of experience.

    For president of United States, in these critical moments, McCain is the least prepared and the least qualified. Together with choosing Sarah Palin, someone that knows nothing of national and international issues, makes the McCain/Palin ticket really troublesome to swallow.

    In that context McCain represents a riskier choice than Obama.

    October 7, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. NoTrustInPolitics

    Phil, Ashburn, VA October 7th, 2008 4:27 pm ET

    There is no question about it. All republicans are arrogant and think everyone else is below them.

    Thanks for putting that out there. It must be said.

    Back to the article, Obama is far better than McCain on both personality and substance. Nowhere have I seen McCain and his supporters (sorry, fanatics) do something other than attack Obama, but I have seen Obama and his supporters (not the fanatic ones) actually give information on his plans while attacking McCain. I hope this old a*s gets voted out.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 7, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |


    October 7, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. David, Silver Spring, MD

    John McCain bought into his own marketing plan, thinking he could "POW" us into submission, that we would gladly put ourselves into his "hero" hands just because he told us he was "honorable" and "put the country's interest above his own self-interest."

    John McCain may believe all that, and may get angry with anyone who questions it. But the truth is plain: time and time and time again he has sided with the trickle-down, deregulatory policies that have sunk us. He may not see it, but we do. And we aren't buying what he's selling.

    John McCain is old Chinese food that's been rotting in the back of the fridge ever since Reagan. Now that it's come out in the open, we all realize how stinky it is.

    October 7, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  16. Happy in Arizona

    The McCain/Palin ticket is terribly vindictive. Why? Because they have no plans for this country. He has no change to make other than follow the Bush/Cheney policies. We need change, we need better education for our children, we need better insurance that is reasonible and cost effective. We don't need McCain/Palin. It is dispicable for a presidential candidate act like a 2 year old and that is Palin and McCain. Disaster

    October 7, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. NO ONE CARES ! ! !

    Don' t you shallow hateful mean spirited conservatives get it?

    Obama is the one!

    It doesn't matter that he has never done anything constructive or productive. It doesn't matter that he has no experience in business or the military. It doesn't matter that he has consistanly demonstrated poor judgement.

    GET A CLUE !!! I T J U S T D O E S N ' T M A T T E R ! ! !

    Vote for Obama and get over yourselves –

    October 7, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. Reagan

    not surprised:

    To answer your naive question. If 95% blacks voted Democratic in the past then why did 95% blacks vote O'Bama over Hillary Clinton who is also a Democrat

    Americans of all colors are not stupid, we know why, and I think you do too.

    October 7, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. ohio

    Obama baby obama all the way!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 7, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  20. Mark

    In their negative deep dive, the McCain-Palin campaign hammered Obama for supposedly saying our troops in Afghanistan are just "air raiding villages and killing civilians."

    The Washington Times reports that John McCain himself once said something remarkably similar in 2000. McCain called the Clinton strategy and tactics "...the most obscene chapter in recent American history is the conduct of the Kosovo conflict when the president of the United States refused to prepare for ground operations, refused to have air power used effectively because he wanted them flying — he had them flying at 15,000 feet where they killed innocent civilians because they were dropping bombs from such — in high altitude."

    Palin said Obama should be "disqualified" for his remark about Afghanistan. Should she hold her running mate to the same standard for his remark about Kosovo?

    October 7, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
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